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Music in Games in General

I had wanted King Haggard to write this section, but he said "I'll write it when I know more about music," so I'll just do the best I can. Music is more than atmosphere for when you play the game. As I write this section, I'm listening to videogame music (Revelations Persona - Mary's Theme). If your game has original music, and it's good, it will have a life beyond the game file itself: it will be collected and listened to long after the person has completed the game, reminding them of the game's world each time they listen (that is, if they like the music enough to want to keep it on their computer).

(Listening to Suikoden - Main Theme). Why have music in games at all? Is it only because without it the game would feel incomplete? Is it only because most other games have music? Or is there some reason more important?

(Listening to Mega Man X - Storm Eagle). My current understanding of why music is necessary in games needs to fall back upon my understanding of music in general: music is pattern recognition in time. I feel that the reason other animals don't like music (often don't even know the difference between music and noise) is because they aren't obsessive pattern-recognizers. Most of human intelligence comes from pattern recognition. Better put: recognition of a pattern (that is, anticipation of future events based on a created model adjusted by past events) is common to most of what we normally think of as 'intelligence'. If someone never knows what is going to happen next, can't connect any present event to past events and can't predict any future event, they aren't very human. Music is one of the purest forms of pattern recognition, to see this, just listen to one of your favorite music files and witness how you mentally 'sing along' with it (even if it doesn't have lyrics), anticipating what is coming next, and being delighted when it arrives. You can wish for no purer form of what being human is than this.

(Listening to Xenogears - Lahan - Creid album). What, then, is the difference between different types of music? There are differences in key, in temp, in instruments, in melody, but beyond all of this, there are differences in complexity and integration. No accurate terminology for this aspect of music yet exists to my knowledge, but subjectively I do find a differences between music in terms of simplicity (at the extreme end of simplicity would be music that repeats every 8 seconds, or repetetive drum beats) and in terms of unity (at the extreme end of disunity is music made of unharmonic random notes).

(Listening to Final Fantasy Tactics - Holy Knight Zalbag). Music in games is really not too different from music in movies or on the radio, except for the obvious difference that it needs to repeat itself after some time (if you stay on the same map doing nothing for 250 minutes, the game (usually) has to continue to play that map's music for 250 minutes). Beyond that distinction, thre is also a need for music to be centered on something: Caves have 'cave music', castles have 'castle music', overworlds have 'overworld music' (which, when you collect them from lots of different games with caves, castles, and overworlds, you see a lot of simularities). 

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Music Programs

Noteworthy Composer is the best shareware music program I've encountered, and the one I use for instrument changes. It can be found at www.noteworthysoftware.com. It works much like standard musical notation, so knowing how to read music would be quite helpful.

Another music program which works in a similar way is WinJammer, at www.winjammer.com/wjsw.htm.

Blue Ribbon, here, has some 'auto-composing' software which may interest beginning music composers.

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Midi to Bam

If you're going to write music, either you're going to use Notate.exe (the music creation program that comes with the Ohrrpgce), or going to make midi's and important them in. The advantage of using Notate.exe is that you hear what the music will actually sound like in the game as you make it. The disadvantage is that if you want to later use that music in a game for another engine which supports midi, or want to show other people your music easily, you'll need to convert these .not files to midi files, which requires another program (found on the Hamster Republic).

Midi to bam is not simply a matter of running midi2bam.exe on an midi, because some of the instruments sound terrible in BAM (Bob's Adlib Music) format that sound good in midi format, and the opposite is sometimes true as well, though less often. Lead1 and Lead2 sound terrible in BAM. Oboe sounds much better in BAM than in midi. I suggest that if you are a music composer that you build a table of which instruments sound good in bam format (with notes on how they sound good), with respect to octave (some instruments sound horrible at low octaves but work in high ones, etc.). I would like to give you such a table here, but I've never built one (although I started to do so once). If anyone builds one which works pretty well, send it in and make Ohrrpgce music history.

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Making Music Tips & Tactics

1) Listen to a lot of music. And don't just listen with diverted attention, listen with full attention (don't eat or read while listening). Then open them (if they are midi's) in an midi editing program and observe how they work in those terms. This will take awhile, but after enough practice you should be able to (or so I hear, I have aways to go) hear the music without playing it, just by looking at the music notation. This familiarity with notation will make writing music easier.

2) Make up music in your head first, clearly and precisely, playing it over several times, and only after it is perfect in there should you start to write it. I have the ability to make up music in my head quite easily, and do so in moments of boredom, but since I have no real ability to write music, most of it is lost after I forget it. That's why I suggest 1) before 2), even though I'm not able to do 1) myself.

3) Learn to play a musical instrument. Composing music on a keyboard (or other instrument) is often easier than composing it in an midi program, because there is a quicker 'development cycle' (that is, it's faster to test out alterations on an instrument than it is to test them out by writing down an midi note, playing the midi, changing the note, playing it again, etc.).

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Ripping Music, and the Public Domain

For those of you who don't want to write your own game's music or get another to do so, there are the alternatives of musical theft and the using of music not designed for your game but 'free'. Even here, however, effort and ability is needed for selection of music that fits your game and placment into different areas of the game. In Tilde, for example, since it was a Christmas game, I naturally sought out Christmas music to use in it. Some didn't conver to BAM too well, so even though I ripped music I had to spent time in an midi program converting instruments.

The public domain is the set of music (and other information) which is not copyrighted, usually due to either the copyright owner being long dead, the owner being born long before copyright laws, or the author expressly putting what he creates in the public domain (so that anyone who wants to use it can, without restriction). Some public domain music sites are:

http://www.mutopiaproject.org/ (for free sheet music)

There are likely many more, go look around on google.

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